Odion Ighalo

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FOLLOW LIVE – Tunisia and Nigeria in AFCON third place game

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The appetizer to the main course takes place today as Tunisia and Nigeria meet in the third place match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Both sides fell in the semifinals on last-minute goals, with Tunisia dropping to Senegal on an extra-time own-goal while Nigeria was pipped by a Riyad Mahrez 95th minute winner.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

While this match is obviously a chance for both sides to finish the tournament on a high note, also notable is the race for the Golden Boot. Odion Ighalo is in the lead with four goals and could look to tack on to that total with Mahrez, Adam Ounes, and Sadio Mane all on three goals and playing in the final.

Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr will want to save face after a disappointing tournament, and while he received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Nigerian federation, he still will want something tangible to take home. The Super Eagles came into the tournament as the third-highest FIFA ranked African nation, but after a shaky group stage performance and a pair of narrow one-goal knockout stage wins before the loss to Algeria, the need for a quality outing is great.

Five of the six previous matches between these two teams have ended in draws, so something has to give this time in Cairo.

Senegal, Nigeria into AFCON semifinals via narrow wins

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Senegal and Nigeria both faced surprise quarterfinalists in Benin and South Africa, and both found out their opponents were no slouch, requiring slim one-goal victories to reach the semifinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Up first in thee day, Senegal topped Benin 1-0 on a 69th minute strike by Idrissa Gueye who burst straight down the heart of the Benin defense and took a feed from Sadio Mane before slotting home the winner. For much of the game, Benin’s defensive shape locked Senegal down, as the favorites held 63% possession but could only manage four shots on target to Benin’s three.

Mane was the most incisive Senegal attacker, and he saw two goals wiped off the board by VAR checks for offside. It looked that Benin actually may take a shock lead early in the second half as Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis nearly put one clumsily into his own net, but the potential own-goal skittered wide and Gueye struck soon after. Benin defender Olivier Verdon, who just joined La Liga side Alaves this summer, was sent off late for a foul on Gueye to essentially seal the match.

Nigeria was also under threat of upset as they took on South Africa, but a late winner from Udinese defender William Troost-Ekong gave them a 2-1 victory and a spot in the semifinals. The 89th minute decider was bundled home by the 25-year-old after South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams whiffed looking to punch a corner.

That proved vital as previously, Samuel Chukwueze’s first-half goal off his blocked first attempt cancelled out a 71st minute effort from Bongani Zungu. The South Africa equalizer survived a contentious VAR check that appeared to confirm a blatant offside, but the assist came off the back of Odion Ighalo so the goal stood.

With both winners into the semifinals, Senegal will draw the winner of Madagascar and Tunisia, while Ivory Coast and Algeria battle for a chance to meet Nigeria in the semis. Both those remaining quarterfinals take place tomorrow, with the semifinals set for July 14 in Cairo.

Nigeria knocks out defending champ Cameroon at AFCON

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CAIRO (AP) Defending champion Cameroon is out of the African Cup of Nations after losing 3-2 to Nigeria in a wild last-16 game on Saturday.

Nigeria scored first before Cameroon replied with two goals in three minutes at the end of the first half to lead 2-1. Nigeria then did the same to go ahead again with two goals in a three-minute spell after halftime.

[ MORE: Messi gets 2nd ever red card ]

Odion Ighalo scored two of Nigeria’s goals and Alex Iwobi snatched the winner in the 66th minute to put the 2013 champion into the quarterfinals, where they’ll play the winner of the Egypt-South Africa game.

Cameroon’s exit is a major disappointment for the high-profile coaching team of former Netherlands internationals Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert appointed to lead the team’s title defense.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Africa Cup of Nations: Nigeria beats Burundi on late goal

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CAIRO (AP) Odion Ighalo scored a late winner four minutes after coming on as a substitute to see a relieved Nigeria squeeze past tournament debutant Burundi 1-0 at the African Cup of Nations on Saturday.

Nigeria had been warned when the second day of the tournament opened with its first major surprise: Uganda, playing at the Cup of Nations for the first time in 41 years, beat former champion Congo 2-0.

Nigeria ultimately prevailed over the newcomers when Ighalo pounced to bury his chance in Egypt’s second largest city of Alexandria.

The forward slipped in behind the Burundi defense after a backheeled pass by Ola Aina. He opened his body and stroked a right foot shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.

Three-time champion Nigeria deserved the win on the second half evidence, but not on the first 45 minutes.

Then, Burundi was the more adventurous team on the biggest day in its soccer history.

Cedric Amissi controlled a long pass superbly but had his shot blocked by Nigeria `keeper Daniel Akpeyi. Akpeyi struggled to keep out a powerful long-range free kick by Gael Bigirimana and Frederic Nsabiyumva hit the crossbar with a header.

“It was a very difficult game,” Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel said. “It was tough. We knew that they are a tough team. They can run and run and run.”

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Ighalo on the move; Grillitsch to Tottenham

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Odion Ighalo has told Sky Sports that he wants to return to the Premier League.

The Nigerian international spent two-and-a-half seasons at Watford (two in the PL) from 2014-17 as he scored 16 goals and added four assists in 50 PL starts. He’s spent the past 12 months playing in the Chinese Super League for Changchun Yatai, scoring 36 goals in 55 games but, per the report, Ighalo is flying to the UK this week and wants to hold talks about his future.

A transfer fee of $25 million (what Changchun Yatai paid Watford for Ighalo in January 2017) has been suggested if Ighalo is to be sold, but which PL clubs will be interested in his services?

At a quick glance a few stick out: Southampton, Everton, Leicester and Crystal Palace would all seem like decent spots for him to land as they need added firepower and a target man. Everton have struggled in that area and have the cash the pay Ighalo, while Everton may have to get sell the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho to bring Ighalo in. Southampton have sold Manolo Gabbiadini, so a spot has opened up but does his style of play suit Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s high-pressing philosophy? Probably not.

Crystal Palace would be a good fit for Ighalo but whether or not they have this kind of cash is another matter. With Christian Benteke about to return from injury, Roy Hodgson may give him a run in the team, while Jordan Ayew has found some decent form in recent weeks in a central role.

Ighalo, 29, could want a move back to the PL as much as he likes, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be many clubs who could take 1) afford his wages, and 2) have a spot for him to be a regular.


Another report from Sky Sports claims that Tottenham want to sign Austrian midfielder Florian Grillitsch, 23, from Hoffenheim.

The report claims that Grillitsch has a release clause in his contract for $24 million and with Mousa Dembele close to sealing a move to Chinese Super League side Beijing Sinobo Guoan, it appears Spurs have found their replacement.

A penny for your thoughts, Harry Winks, Victor Wanyama and Olivier Skipp…

This move seems very much like a Tottenham transfer. A young player who has UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga experience who is ready to make the step to a team competing in the top four of the Premier League each season and is hungry to improve under Mauricio Pochettino.

Grillitsch is a tall defensive midfielder who is comfortable on the ball, and likes to break up the play, so it seems like he would be a direct replacement for Dembele. This potential move says an awful lot about Winks’ future at Tottenham, while Wanyama has been hit by injuries but it appears he could be heading out of the door this summer. Either way, Spurs need extra depth as it is so if Dembele does leave then at least giving Pochettino the cash to bring in a replacement for a few million more is the least Daniel Levy can do.

Right?